Postpartum Anxiety – How I am Coping

Last month, in my post Allowing Myself to Shop, I told you I was planning to write about some of the struggles I have had since Aspen’s birth 4 months ago.  I did write about healing from a c-section, but this post isn’t about my physical well-being.  It’s about something much more difficult to heal from…because it is inside my head.

Postpartum Anxiety - it's not depression, it's outright fear |

I knew I wasn’t dealing with depression.  I’d been there before.  This was different.  This was outright fear.

I was:
*standing over my child, convinced she was going to die any moment.

*not letting anyone else hold her in case she stopped breathing and no one noticed.

*not sleeping because I was watching her breathe.

*keeping the light on all night so I could watch her breathe.

*fearful that my other children were sick and I wouldn’t realize it until it was too late.

*spending copious amounts of time on the internet searching all sorts of “symptoms” I thought I was seeing in my children.

*unable to stay by myself with the children without someone there to distract me from my thoughts.

*wanting to run away from my responsibilities at home so I didn’t have to think about all the things that could go wrong.

Every time I read or heard about something happening to another child, I would internalize it.  It would consume me, and I would make it “mine” – as in, I would become petrified that it was going to happen to one of my children.

In order to sleep at night, I would put on a movie or listen to music on the iPad next to my bed so I could shut my brain off.

I could sometimes hold it together during the day, but by nighttime, I was a wreck.

It started when I was pregnant.  I had a feeling this was a girl, and while I had always envisioned myself being excited to finally have a girl after all this time, I never expected to be so scared of having a girl.  I guess I figured after 7 years, I would have worked through Emily’s death.  I guessed wrong.

And then we got a call telling us Aspen needed to be checked for Cystic Fibrosis.

Struggling with postpartum anxiety can be because of many different factors. | RaisingArrows.netWe were told her first test was inconclusive (it was right below the line of “negative” and “maybe”), and she needed a second test.  Thankfully, that test was definitively negative, but the 6 week process only added to my anxiety.

Add to all of this the fact that we experienced nearly every major life event all within a few months, and I was drained.  I didn’t have much fight left in me.

(affiliate links included)
Right before my 6 week checkup, I decided I had to do something.  I couldn’t live like this.  A friend, who knew I was struggling, suggested a high-powered B-complex.  That’s where I started.

Seeking Health B Complex - in my arsenal for dealing with postpartum anxiety |

I ordered the exact one she suggested – Seeking Health B Complex Plus – from Amazon with Prime shipping.  I was desperate.  She thought I’d see results within a few weeks (ugh), but after 4 days, I was feeling MUCH better!

I continue to take this supplement faithfully.  I can tell if I’ve accidentally missed a day or two.  I knew I had a B deficiency from some blood work I had years ago, but I hate taking pills, and I never felt bad enough to stick with a regimen of taking supplements.  Seeing the difference this particular supplement made gave me the incentive to keep taking it!

NOTE:  This is currently unavailable.  I have decided to take the Active B12 Lozenge from the same company.

Another friend gave me some Peace & Calming from Young Living.  I put it on my wrists at night.  It seemed to help my brain from tumbling about at night.  I’ve also heard Valor helps with anxiety.  (note:  I am not a YL distributor, nor do I endorse any specific essential oil company.)

Then, I signed up for The Healthy Home eCourse:

The Healthy Home eCourse is one of the resources that helped me with my Postpartum Anxiety |

I wish I could manage to tell you how much this eCourse has meant to me.  You can learn more about this eCourse and other offered by Vintage Remedies HERE.)  The second module in The Healthy Home was on natural stress relief, and it was SUPER helpful.  When you purchase an eCourse, you also get access to a Vintage Remedies’ FREE Resource Library with 21 Audios, Videos, and Downloads – one of which is Botanicals for Anxiety.

This FREE audio for students of Vintage Remedies gave me ideas for treating my postpartum anxiety |

That’s where I learned about bergamot (and tons of other remedies!)  It isn’t a sedative, so it can be taken any time of day, but it also helps with insomnia, and it is anti-viral, so it is great to have around for cold/flu season.

I purchased this diffuser to use in our home:

It had good reviews, and it is pretty.  I needed a little “pretty.” 😉

I also needed to get more sleep.  I don’t think we fully realize how much our bodies need sufficient sleep.  It’s as if our brains go haywire with a lack of sleep.  We get more and more irrational, as we get less and less sleep.  The problem with anxiety is that you often can’t sleep, or in my case, you don’t want to sleep.

I really can’t explain why I didn’t want to sleep (and I am still struggling to WANT to sleep), but it isn’t because I’m afraid something bad will happen if I sleep.  It’s more a feeling of needing to keep busy.

I know a lot of people suggest melatonin to help with sleep issues, but one thing I learned from the Botanicals class is that melatonin is a hormone and shouldn’t be your first choice.  I’ve chosen to use teas to help me sleep.  Teas like Earl Grey (which contains bergamot) and Chamomile have a relaxing effect on the body.  The Bulk Herb Store sells a Fast Asleep Tea that is safe for nursing mothers (something you need to look out for).

Because anxiety often happens at night, and often keeps you from sleeping, try something like Fast Asleep Tea (How I'm Dealing with Postpartum Anxiety) |

(If you are using a loose leaf tea, brew it in your Keurig using a Reusable K-Cup, or use a tea ball or tea strainer.)

They also suggested valerian, so I’m looking into that too.

To help with my anxiety, I have to be VERY careful what I read and watch.  Facebook, blogs, movies, or the nightly news can all trigger fears for me.  Prayer requests for sick children can send me spiraling.  Movies with certain subject matter can be overwhelming.  When faced with someone else’s pain, I have to pray my way through it lest I get caught up in it.

The last thing (which really should be the first thing) I am doing is learning to deal with what is causing my anxiety.  Americans like bandaid fixes.  We like to treat the symptoms without treating the cause.  It’s easier.  But, if I’m ever going to fully work through this, I HAVE to face the fear.

I fear what I know.  I know what it is like to lose a child.  My heart and mind tell me I would never survive it if it happened again.  But, the Lord knows my fears.  He knows my future.  He knows the steps I will be taking on this journey.  I have to stay soaked in the Word.  I have to keep my eyes fixed on Christ and the Cross.

Focus on Christ the Cross - How I'm Dealing with my Postpartum Anxiety |

I’m not through the storm yet.  Writing this post wasn’t easy.  There is no magic cure-all because we live in a fallen world.  But, as I said yesterday, I have hope.  Praise the Lord for hope!

Allowing Myself to Shop

I imagine some of you are confused by the title of this post.  Allow me to bear my soul for a moment…

Allowing Myself to Shop - learning to look forward, beyond the grief |

Giving birth to our first baby girl since Emily’s death in 2008, brought to the surface a lot of emotions.  Feelings and fears I never expected rose to the surface and clouded my sense of reality and rationale.  One of these was a fear of shopping.  To be more exact, a fear of shopping for things Aspen would need in the future.

Until recently, I would only purchase clothing and other items Aspen needed right now.  No 6-9 month clothing.  No spring jacket.  No shoes.  Nothing that would be for the future because I was afraid there would be no future.

Grief and trauma do strange things to a person’s mind.  Sometimes we don’t even know we are reacting to it until something happens that brings it to our attention.  I had thought I would probably go crazy buying all sorts of girly things if I ever had another girl.  Instead, I did the opposite.

As I’ve worked through the emotions of Emily’s death and Aspen’s birth, I’ve begun to allow myself to look forward.  And I’ve allowed myself to shop.

Last week, I used some credit I had through ThredUP and made some purchases for Miss Aspen.  I’d like to share a few of those things with you here as a way of rejoicing!  (The links to ThredUP are affiliate links that give me credit through their site if you choose to order anything.)

Shopping for my little girl's future... |

Ralph Lauren soft sandals – $8.99

Shopping for my little girl's future...|

Rare Editions Special Occasion Dress – $10.99

Shopping for my little girl's future...|

Old Navy Dress (new with tags!) – $8.49

I am hoping to be able to share more of my journey through this new layer of grief, not because I am looking for your sympathy, but because I hope to provide comfort and insight.  Comfort for those who grieve and are dealing with a changed reality, and insight for those who are near someone who grieves but does not always understand this changed reality.

I would like to ask your prayers as I share.  Many times writing through these things creates some anxiety.  I can think I have processed through certain things, only to realize there’s still more to it.  I pray daily that the Lord will give me peace of mind and heart, and protection from the fiery darts of Satan.  I don’t want to miss a single moment of Aspen’s life looking back with fear.

Shopping for my little girl's future...|

Holding Another Baby Girl as I Grieve

It has been seven years.

Seven long years since I held a baby girl.

Holding Another Baby Girl as I Grieve

Seven short years since my last little girl left this earth.

Holding Another Baby Girl as I Grieve |

This year, I grieve hard.  Harder than I have in a long time.

You would think that having a baby girl after all this time would be such a joy.

It is.

But, it is also difficult.  It brings up emotions that have spent seven years lying dormant.  Many of those emotions hurt.

I wish I could explain it, but there are no words layered enough to describe where I am.

It’s a pain amidst joy.

It’s an ache amidst blessing…

as I hold one daughter and grieve another.

(To read more about our little Emily, visit my Grieving Mother page.)

When Baby Isn’t the Gender You Had Hoped For

What do you do when baby doesn't turn out to be the gender you had hoped for?  A candid discussion with Amy @ RaisingArrows.netPerhaps you’ve had your hopes and dreams set on having a little girl, but God hasn’t given you one.  Or maybe He’s given you girls, followed by a string of boys.  Or maybe it’s the other way around and you’ve only had girls and really would like the joy of raising a little rough and tumble boy to carry on the family name.

And you feel guilty.

You know you should feel blessed by the gender God has given you, but you can’t help but feel disappointed when it doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped.  Sure you love those babies with all your heart, but deep in your heart you wonder if you’ll ever get your wish.

I know this because I’ve lived it.

My story probably isn’t the same as yours, but I know what it feels like to wish baby was the opposite gender.  I know what the longing feels like.  I know what the guilty disappointment feels like.

When Emily passed away in 2008, I desperately wanted another girl.  Not that I wanted to replace her, but because I wanted to regain a little of what I had lost.  Instead, I had a blond haired boy on New Year’s Day of 2009 whom we named Micah.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For |

I remember my OB saying she felt it was probably best I did have a boy following Emily’s death, and I quickly came to the place where I agreed with her.  He was a delight, and I was not sorry he was a boy for long.

When Micah turned 1, I found out I was pregnant again.  This became a pivotal point for me.  In my mind, I had “done my time.”  I had birthed a boy child following my daughter’s death, and I “deserved” a girl.  I became very wrapped up in wanting a girl.  In fact, going into the sonogram, I was nearly sick to my stomach with anxiety.  Because we never let the sonographer tell us what we are having, but we always look for ourselves, it leaves a shadow of a doubt we carry with us into the delivery room.  However, looking at the sonogram that day, I was pretty sure I saw a boy.

And I cried.

All the way home.

And many days after that.

I compared sonogram photos of my other babies, hoping to be wrong.  Hoping the little one I was carrying was not another boy.

But, he was…

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For |

Little Garin had colic and I had postpartum depression – both of these were firsts for our family.  However, as Garin grew, and both the colic and PPD subsided, I began to see what an amazing gift the Lord had given me in this child.  Garin was and is an absolute joy to raise.  I realized I had squandered a lot of time wishing for him to be something other than what he was.  I had not been enjoying my little boys because I was too busy wishing for another little girl.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For | RaisingArrows.nerWhen I became pregnant with our next child, I vowed NOT to waste time wishing for a girl.  I threw myself into preparing for a new baby no matter the gender.  We came up with a boy name we loved.  I decorated in blues and yellows.  And I began to ENJOY the boys God had given me.

Including the little boy named Creed born January 2013.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For | RaisingArrows.netHe was my third boy in a row, and I was thrilled!

I now have 5 boys.  They are rowdy and rambunctious, but wholeheartedly devoted to their mama.  In fact, I’ve come to a place where I’ve wondered if this baby is a girl, do I even remember how to be a baby girl mama again?  It’s been 7 years since I had a little girl, and with Emily gone, my next girl in age is 10.  My girls are at a very different stage in life than my little boys.  My house is no longer filled with girly toys, but rather Legos and cars.  Wrestling is a daily occurrence, and the words, “Don’t hurt your brother,” are said multiple times a day.  This zoo of boys is my norm.  In fact, the 4 youngest boys have taken on the collective term “little boys.”  As in, “My little boys are all wearing red,” or, “Little boys, come here!”

Do I still wish for a girl?  I don’t know if WISH is the right word.  I would love to have the chance to raise another girl.  Yet, I know in my heart it would be scary because of my circumstances – having had my last little girl pass away at the age of 7 months.

Do I feel I NEED another little girl.  No, not anymore.  I have learned to celebrate each precious life – boy or girl.

But, it wasn’t easy.  It was a God thing.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For |

I would like to offer you some suggestions on how to learn to celebrate each baby no matter the gender because I’m a practical person who likes to have tangible ways to help me work through difficult circumstances.  These are not meant to be “band-aid” solutions or ways to just “get by.”  These are ways to start training your brain to see your babies as blessings and gifts from God in exactly the gender package God intended.

*Enjoy the children you have.  One thing I wasn’t truly doing was enjoying my little guys.  I was looking toward the next pregnancy as the one that would bring me another chance at a girl.  This is not how God intends for you to parent.  Enjoy the babies you have!  Find good things about having a string of boys (or girls)!  Revel in the fact that these little ones were given to you and learn to cherish that!

*If you find out gender ahead of time, take that knowledge and make it special.  Buy or make something special just for that baby.  Celebrate – and I don’t necessarily mean a “Reveal Party” because that could backfire on you if well-meaning friends and family are disappointed and say so.  Take time to enjoy your pregnancy and prepare for the new baby in a special way.  Come up with a name you love.  Take time to ponder who the new baby will look like.  Thank the Lord for this new life and the privilege to carry this child.

*Don’t let others feel sorry for you.  Even if you are feeling sorry for you, don’t allow others to do the same as that will only perpetuate your feelings of disappointment.  You can be honest with those you love, but if you are going to learn to be content, you have to learn to be outwardly blessed by the gender of children the Lord has given you.  You don’t have to quote Scripture to exude thankfulness.  You need only to offer a smile and an appreciation for the children you have.

*Make having a lot of one gender special.  This is where it gets fun!  Dress them alike.  Plan parties and outings and homeschool projects that cater to their gender.  Be a boy or girl mom full force!

*Be joyful and count your blessings – but give yourself grace.  Once upon a time, I had more girls than boys.  In the blink of an eye, that changed.  Of all people, I should have been thankful.  I should have counted my blessings.  But, in my humanness, I wanted what I did not have.  Learning to see my boys as something other than stepping stones on my way to the girl I felt I deserved took time, humility, and an entire change of heart.  I needed grace to get past the guilt and disappointment.

Do you have a story to share about your own disappointment?  Perhaps you have an encouraging word for mamas traveling this same road.  Please, feel free to share your thoughts and comments below so that others may be encouraged and blessed!

How Well-Meaning People Unintentionally Hurt Those Who Grieve

How Well-Meaning People Unintentionally Hurt Those Who Grieve | RaisingArrows.netI didn’t want to write this post.  I didn’t want anyone to look at things they had said or done in the past and wonder, “Have I hurt someone who was grieving?”  But, this is an important post.  I get emails every week from people who want to help their grieving friends and family.  Many of them are afraid of saying or doing something wrong.

It’s not that grieving people are a crazy lot who hold grudges the rest of their lives based on what you do or don’t do, but there are typically two kinds of people who unintentionally hurt grieving people – the thoughtless and the over-thinkers.  Neither one of these groups are trying to hurt others, but if I can shine just a bit of light into the world of grief to help these two groups see their way, that is what I will try to do with this post.

1.  Not being there – You may think grieving people don’t notice who writes, who comes to the funeral, who calls, who helps out, but they do.  With stark clarity.  You may feel completely inadequate to truly “be there”, but not being there at all is not the answer.  If you can come to the funeral, come.  If you can come to the house, come.  Set aside your fears of inadequacy and just do something.  I know it’s hard.  I’ve been on both sides of this.  It is never an easy thing, but it is a necessary thing.

2.  Saying “it was for the best”, “she’s in a better place”, or any variation thereof – That hurts.  If you think about for just a bit, you will hopefully hear how those words could hurt a grieving person.  I am without my daughter, and even though I know God’s perfect will is perfect, I don’t want to be told right now that my child being anywhere else is better for her.  Now is not the time.

And never, ever tell me that had she grown up, she might have turned away from the Lord and brought us all sorts of sadness.  And never, ever tell me I’m young enough to have more children.  You might believe these comments help you to make sense of what feels like a senseless loss, or help me feel like I can move on, but instead it ends up feeling utterly dishonoring to the memory of my child.

3.  Trying to find someone to blame – No grieving person needs to be subjected to a rant by someone else.  In my mind, blaming someone for whatever has happened, is a rant.  Don’t give me a laundry list of everyone who is at fault for this tragedy, just let me grieve without having to filter your anger and blame too.  You can read more about how people naturally look to blame others in a tragedy.

4.  Putting grief in a box – We all grieve differently.  I prefer to grieve alone.  Some people prefer to grieve loudly.  Some need to say what they need to say and move on…until the next time.  And yes, some people seem to grieve forever.  Whatever you do, don’t try to put someone else’s grief in a box and give them timelines and rules for grieving.  Remember with them.  Give them hope for a future.  But don’t have expectations.

5.  Not acknowledging their loss – Sometimes in our uncomfortableness, we avoid topics that we are afraid of.  We brush over dates and names.  We steer conversations away from anything that might remind our grieving friend or family member of their loss.  We try to soften the pain by never acknowledging the pain.  Stop doing that.  Please, speak my child’s name.  Please, remember the 4th of July as her birthday and February as the month she passed away (you don’t have to remember the exact date, I’m ok with that.)  When you pretend like nothing happened, you hurt me far worse than if you acknowledge my daughter’s death by including her in my life.

6.  Making this about you – We want to relate.  Its natural.  But, unless you have a VERY similar story or are asked to tell your story, avoid it.  In those early days, grieving people can only handle their own grief, and they are barely doing that.  Don’t heap your grief on them and don’t try to compare your grief to theirs.

In my post on helping a grieving friend, I mention how losing your dog, your grandma, or even your parent is not the same as losing a child.  And the reverse is true.  Let the grieving person grieve their own loss without needing to filter through yours.

Additionally, don’t tell a grieving person how you “almost” lost a child or “almost” lost a parent.  There was a long period of time where I struggled with being around people who had almost lost children, but hadn’t.  They made me angry.  I know, that’s an ugly truth, but truth nonetheless.  Almost and Did are nowhere near the same.

7.  Never being normal around them again – This may sound odd considering I just said that not acknowledging their loss is hurtful too.  However, you CAN be normal AND acknowledge their loss at the same time.  Don’t assume I don’t want to go out for a meal or ice cream because I’m grieving.  Don’t assume I don’t want to take a walk or take the kids to the park.  In the early days, it is hard to do things without your loved one, but I needed life to move forward too.  I needed to be treated normal, and not like a scary disease.  I needed friends who would come over, not because I might need to talk, but because they just wanted to spend time with me whether I talked or not.

Grieving people need to be reminded that they are human.  They need to be slowly coaxed back into the land of the living.  They need to slowly return to joy.  But, they desperately want to avoid leaving their loved one behind as they make that return.  You can help be that balance for them by speaking memories and hope in their life one day at a time.

Grief is hard.  And at some point, you are going to flub up.  If you flub up because you were thoughtless – say so and apologize!  If you flub up because you were over thinking – say so and apologize!  I can almost guarantee you will be forgiven because if there is one thing grieving people appreciate more than anything, it is the acknowledgement that NOTHING ABOUT THIS IS EASY.

For our story and more help for those who grieve and the friends of those who grieve, visit my Grieving Mother page.

Learning to Love Every Age and Stage

Learning to Love Every Age and Stage | RaisingArrows.netWe have a wide range of ages in our household – all the way from little bitty to nearly grown.  It’s a lot to keep up with, but I enjoy it so much!  However, I remember a time when this wasn’t the case.  I remember when I didn’t relish every moment because I didn’t know I was missing anything.  And even if I had known, I probably wouldn’t have known how to change it.

Then I reconnected with a childhood friend who was very vocal about loving her children.  She loved them “out loud.”  She told me she would memorize their little faces as they nursed because she didn’t want to miss a moment.  And I was in awe.

It had never occurred to me to enjoy my children right where they were.  I was always too busy trying to get them to the next stage.

Learning to Love Every Age & Every Stage |

So many mamas are rushing through their children’s childhoods. Some are excited for the future. Some are weary of the present.  Some know they should slow down.  Some never give it a thought and just keep plodding away.  Most are a mixture of all of these, and far too many of us are “missing the moments.”

Enjoy Every Age and Stage |

Baby Creed is 14 months old.  Every day I wake up and stare at him and realize he is growing up before my eyes, and if I don’t enjoy the very age he is right now, I will never have that chance again.

I am thankful the Lord brought someone {back} into my life who truly loved her children and showed me by example how to make memories with my children before I found myself with only memories to hold on to.

You may never know the pain and emptiness of losing a child, but if you do not grab hold of the age and stage your children are right this very minute, there will come a day when they will be gone in the figurative sense, and you will wonder why you didn’t savor their growing up years.

Learning to Love Every Age & Stage |

There isn’t some magical formula to loving your children right where they are.  It is more a careful and purposeful slowing down to gain perspective.  It is a hug, a kiss, a smile, a listening ear.  It is taking photos and videos – even if they are on a cell phone.  It is keeping a journal with them or sharing a Special Night.  It is being a student of your child, learning more about them every day.  It is thinking before you speak, and loving more than you lecture.  It is speaking out loud just how blessed you are.  It is looking for the good in every age and stage, rather than dwelling on the bad.

It is realizing they do grow up, faster than you would ever imagine.

Large Family Homeschooling eBook | by Amy Roberts of